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Letter: Suicide's warnings in cyberspace

Polk County Sheriff personnel investigate the death of

Polk County Sheriff personnel investigate the death of 12-year-old girl, Rebecca Ann Sedwick, at an old cement plant in Lakeland, Fla. (Sept. 10, 2013) Credit: AP

The recent suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick in Florida was reportedly sparked by cyberbullying, which has tragically become common among young people.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in the United States among 15- to 24-year-olds, behind accidents and homicides. Also, more people in this age group are choosing to talk on the Internet about their suicidal thoughts, whether subtly or overtly. The traditional warning signs -- talking or writing about death, dying or suicide -- now also apply online. Social networking sites are often replacing the handwritten suicide note.

This is another vitally important reason parents need to be aware of what their children say online. Recognizing suicidal thoughts and feelings expressed in cyberspace can help save a life. Be proactive. Don't allow a youngster to have a Facebook or Twitter account without parental access. Look at these sites to see what others say about your child. Regrettably, not every parent knows when a child is bullied.

Other warning signs of suicide include pulling away from friends and family, inability to concentrate, changes in eating or sleeping habits, use of alcohol or drugs, mood swings and giving away personal items. More often than not, the signs are there.

Suicide prevention starts with a dialogue. Whether we spot a behavior, a note or an online post, it's our responsibility to know the warning signs and act.

Robyn Berger-Gaston, Riverhead

Editor's note: The writer directs the Youth and Senior Services Division of the Family Service League, a social services agency.

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